Speakingout
For eight hours last Wednesday, during an AT&T outage, Alaskans across the state relived a long-gone era, the one before cell phones. Well, at least that's what I thought we were doing at first.
With more ways than ever to keep in touch, do we? 122309 SPEAKINGOUT 2 Capital City Weekly For eight hours last Wednesday, during an AT&T outage, Alaskans across the state relived a long-gone era, the one before cell phones. Well, at least that's what I thought we were doing at first.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Story last updated at 12/23/2009 - 12:19 pm

With more ways than ever to keep in touch, do we?

For eight hours last Wednesday, during an AT&T outage, Alaskans across the state relived a long-gone era, the one before cell phones. Well, at least that's what I thought we were doing at first.

As it turned out, only voice and SMS service were out. Data exchange was alive and well. People who were usually glued to their iPhones remained glued to their iPhones, sending and receiving e-mails and Facebook status updates.

So much for a return to old-fashioned modes of communication.

Around this time last year I was feeling out of touch with a lot of friends and family members in other parts of the world, so I sent off my first ever "year in review" letter to let everyone know what I'd been up to. This year, I'm wondering if that tradition has already become obsolete.

Thanks to Facebook, we can now know all kinds of details of the lives of most people we've ever met. I can spend hours looking at photos of people I haven't talked to in years. It seems that Facebook functions much like a holiday letter, albeit a bit fragmented - but with constant updates.

So how do we go about writing an annual letter in this day and age? Is it even necessary?

I think it still is, but I suspect the age of mass holiday letters may be coming to an end.

I'm starting to worry about the fate of letters in any form. Hand-written, typed, e-mailed - they all seem to be on the way out. There was a time, maybe six or seven years ago, before I had a cell phone or a Facebook account, when I wrote and received lots of good, long, thoughtful e-mails. I still have many of them, and they're fun to reread - but I don't seem to be getting or sending many of them anymore. I wish I were.

How do we snap out of this?

As in a lot of things, the best way may not be the fastest way. Even with more ways to communicate than ever, to do it well we may have to take a small step back. I can't think of a better time of year to do it.

There are a number of things this time of year that makes us yearn for deeper communication with our friends and family, whether on dark lonely nights or in the midst of festive gatherings.

It's a time when we tend to think about the people who matter most to us. And when I think about who matters most, it's probably not all of my Facebook friends, or even everyone I'd send a greeting card to if I had time.

So instead of trying to write a letter to everyone, I'm going to try to write a few individual letters to a few people. Instead of texting "Merry Christmas" to a lot of people, I'm going to try to call a few people on Christmas Day.

One of the most wonderful aspects of holiday gatherings is that we often put everything else on hold for the occasion. When groups of family and friends sit down for Christmas dinner this Friday, I hope we can take time to truly communicate with everyone around us.

This gift of attention and communication may be one of the best presents we can give this season.

Katie Spielberger is the managing editor of the Capital City Weekly. She may be reached at katie.spielberger@capweek.com.


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